Molot M-4 / Mya-4/ 3M
The Soviets' first strategic long-range bomber was conceived as early as 1951, along with a passenger derivative the M-6P. The first example from Myasishchev was the SDB strategic bomber powered by four 8,250 kg (18,188 lb) AM-TKRD-03 engines with a maximum speed of 700 kph (435 mph). It was slightly faster than the M-4 Bison that followed and its range was estimated at over 12,000 km (7,456 miles). The SDB was superseded at the Myasishchev 0KB by the lM (customer designation) M-2 (0KB designation), which had th.e outer engines moved symmetrically inboard, necessitating the addition of small pods to house the outrigger landing gear. This variant was powered by four 8,500 kg (18,739 lb) AM-TKRD-03 engines with a maximum speed of 930 kph (578 mph) at an altitude of 12,000 m (39,370 feet). There appears to have been considerable confusion over this version's designation. Initially the first version built was designated M-4 by the 0KB, but 2M by the customer, with a 3M variant subsequently. The final model in this series was a passenger variant designated M-29 (or M-28?) or M-6P, itself a derivative of the M-6 bomber. The M-4 Bison-B was a direct descendant of these early versions.
There were several indices in one machine. Continuing the indexation of Myasishchev’s aircraft, which began with the DVB-102, which was unofficially assigned the M-2 index, the M-4 appeared, topping the list of the transonic strategic bombers family. Looking ahead, for the registration of world records in the FAI in 1959, the aircraft was assigned another index - 103 M. Thus, a whole chain of designations is built - product “25”, VM-25, “M”, M-4, 103M - which continued in other machines.
2M is the military designation of a bomber in the Air Force system, “M-4” is the project code in OKB-23, and “Product 103” is the code for the design and technological documentation in the MAP system in serial production (in the pilot production the aircraft had the fourth name “ Product 25 ").
- Bison A - M-4/2M -- The Bison A was the original version produced. It is characterized by a greenhouse nose and a nose refueling probe. It can be used in a free-fall strategic bombing role, but it is used primarily as a tanker for other Bison and Bear aircraft requiring in-flight refueling. Between 1956 and 1957, the M-4 was equipped with more powerful and low-consumption PD-3M and PD-3M-500A engines to increase range. And a prototype of the M-4, the M-4A, was equipped with an air refueling system and carried out its' first flight in 1956. Soon after series production started, studies were conducted on equipping the M-4 with the Kh-20 air-to-surface missile to strike at targets outside of the bomber's and to overcome air defenses. However, the landing gear did not allow placement of the missile under the fuselage and accommodation of the missile above the fuselage was rejected.
4A-M prototype. From M-4 different set-flight refueling system, developed in OKB S.Alekseeva. In the cabin of the navigator of the LPF was set a "bar" for receiving fuel.
- Bison B - 3M/M-6 -- The modified 3M (M-6) bomber was created in 1955. In order to increase the range of the M-4 bomber, it was subsequently outfitted with new more powerful VD-7 engines. The Bison B had the same basic airframe configuration as Bison A, but it has a slightly larger wing, a longer nose, increased fuel load, higher thrust an improved bomb/nav system. This new bomber had improved flight characteristics and a bigger propellant capacity relative to the M-4, with the maximum range increased up to 11850 km. Bison B was fitted with a nose refueling probe. The air refueling system increasing range up to 15400 km, which made these bombers the first strategic bomber capable of delivering its' payload into deep enemy territory and returning. The first flight of this bomber designated as 3M bomber took place in March 1956. At the end of 1956 series production of the 3M aircraft started at plant Nr.23, and deployment started in 1958. Its primary mission was free-fall strategic bombing, but it can conduct alternate missions as a tanker when a removable bomb-bay refueling package is installed.
- Bison B - 3MS/M-6 -- The reliability of the VD-7 engines caused several problems and as a result, between 1958 and 1960 the bomber was outfitted with new RD-3M-500A engines. This bomber version is designated as 3MS. The range of the bombers without additional fuel tanks decreased to 9400 km.
- Bison B - 3MS/M-6 -- The associated 3MS2 tanker aircraft included refueling equipment in the bomb bay. The tanker variant used the "drogue and probe" aerial refueling technique in which the aircraft being refueled inserts a probe into a drogue at the end of a flexible hose extended from the tanker. This technique was also adopted by the U.S. Navy and the air forces of Great Britain, France, Italy, China and other countries. In unique contrast, the US Air Force adopted a refueling technique in which a telescoping boom is lowered from the tail portion of the tanker and enters a special socket on the aircraft being refueled).
- Bison C - 3MD/M-6 / 3MN -- In 1960 the 3MD bomber was developed, characterized by a slightly larger wing, a more pointed nose, a shorter and relocated nose refueling probe, and a larger tail radome. The Bison C has the same operational performance. Its primary mission is free-fall strategic bombing, but it can conduct alternate missions as a tanker when a removable bomb-bay refueling package is installed. The 1960 modification of the VD-7 engine - the VD-7B - provided better overall performance though smaller thrust was developed. The bombers outfitted with these engines received the designation 3MN. Their range was increased by 15 percent though they had a lower speed and a reduced ceiling.
- Bison C - 3MN-2 -- Several 3M bombers were converted into M-4-2 tanker aircraft, and during the development of the 3MS bomber the 3MS-2 tanker aircraft was developed in parallel. In the bomb bay placed an additional tank, fuel transfer equipment and winch system for the deployment of the refueling "cone". The tanker aircraft that was based on the 3MN received the designation 3MN-2. The 3MS-2 tanker aircraft air regiment was in operational service until 1994.
- Project 28 -- To overcome air defenses, a high-altitude version of the M-4 (project 28) was studied but not developed prior to the in 1960 to shut down the Myasishchev OKB. It was supposed to install four THD HP-5 spaced pylons under the wings. Design of the aircraft was discontinued, as the same design characteristics on the bomber managed to get 3M.
When OKB-23 was shut down in 1960, all activities to upgrade the Bison bombers ended. In the mid 1970s a Bison was experimentally equipped with two Kh-22 two air-to-surface missiles but this version was not deployed.
- 3M-T / BM-T "Atlant" -- In the late 1970s a single 3M bomber was converted to transport outsized components for the Energiya-Buran space launch system from the manufacturing facility to the Baikonur launch site. The cargo, including propellant tanks and the Buran orbiter itself, were placed on external mounting points located above the fuselage. This particular aircraft had a strengthened fuselage, a longer two-fin tail and a new flight control system. The original designation of the aircraft was 3M-T but was subsequently changed to BM-T "Atlant". The first flight took place on April 29, 1981 and the first flight with freight in January, 1982. The plane carried out a total of 150 flights.
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